Real Estate & Earthquakes: What’s The Dallas Risk? Not Much, but Maybe Worth a Little Disclosure…

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This was a luncheon I would have liked to attend, but it would have really shaken me up:

Joshua Marrow, technical director for Partner Engineering and Science Inc. who, for years, has studied large seismic events in California and other hot spots around the world including, now, North Texas, spoke to The Dallas Chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Wednesday at the Park City’s Club in Preston Center.

While he started by explaining that there are fault lines in North Texas, but they haven’t historically caused felt earthquakes, he ended by saying that could be all wrong. Our area has definitely been movin’ and groovin’ lately… and we wrote about Earthquake insurance way back.

Research recently by Southern Methodist University  identified a link between wastewater injection wells and recent tremors — from fracking when drillers dump the salty brine water that comes up from oil and natural gas wells— which gives us human-induced earthquakes.

“It’s naturally occurring faults that basically have been asleep for millions of years and then humans introducing lubrication to the faults. The water is effectively lubricating the rocks, creating additional core pressure against these that’s causing them to wake back up again,” Marrow said.

So those are little quakes you are feeling, because of the water and the fault lines. It’s not enough to make the state start offering or requiring earthquake insurance, but it was enough to get the state, or the Texas Railroad Commission, to grab more authority to shut down wells that induce earthquakes.

It all sounds like an episode of DALLAS, doesn’t it?

Earthquake insurance is expensive in Texas and carries a high deductible, as we told you. What will really shake up the market is the day lenders start requiring it.

Irving/Farmers Branch has recently reported a slew of earthquakes, like five in the last month, but baby earthquakes as my California-living son would say: 2.5 magnitude to 3.3 magnitude. Our worst quake was a 4.0 quake reported in Venus on May 7, which prompted the Texas Railroad Commission to temporarily shutter five injection wells that were within a 100-mile radius. It’s the earthquakes that are 6.0 and above that get serious.

But if the lawyers get involved…

Kassandra McLaughlin, a real estate lawyer with Hush Blackwell, said building owners should consider getting a seismic survey done, especially if it’s an older building.

“If it’s an old, old building and you’re sitting on top of something that has a lot of seismic activity, maybe, you would want to disclose that,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t have any legal obligation to do it.”

My question is this: if fracking and water pressure causes earthquakes, why isn’t Midland-Odessa just jumping off the map?

Well, there were some rumblings in Fort Stockton this week. Guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

4 Comment

  • Because Midland-Odessa doesn’t have the kind of vulnerable fault lines that DFW has.

  • I wonder what my building’s insurance agent is thinking now. Last fall, he told us that humans couldn’t impact what God had created and therefore climate change and earthquakes from fracking were simply not possible within his beliefs. Just the sort of person you want watching over your home. As the Hunter S. Thompson said, “Pray to God, but row away from the rocks.” You pray, I’ll row.